Entertainment

Sofia Wylie on High School Musical Taking on Beauty and the Beast

Created by Tim Federle and streaming on Disney+, Season 2 of High School Musical: The Musical – The Series sees the East High Wildcats prepare to perform Beauty and the Beast as their spring musical. However, rival school North High isn’t going to let them get away with being the only school performing the work of Alan Menken, as they push them into a cutthroat student theater competition.

During a virtual junket for the new season, Collider got the opportunity to chat 1-on-1 with Sofia Wylie about staying focused on the work, what they learned from doing the first season, how working with this cast has been a dream come true, getting to perform songs from Beauty and the Beast, the dynamic between Ricky and Gina, and having to film during COVID. She also talked about working on The School for Good and Evil and her experience with director Paul Feig.

Collider: You were able to do the first season of this show and put it out in the world with no expectations. People were like, “Okay, what is this show with the long title,” but they had to tune in to discover what you were doing. Did you feel any extra pressure as a result of going into Season 2 with more expectations, or do you put that pressure on yourself, no matter what?

SOFIA WYLIE: It’s honestly so natural to put more pressure on yourself on the second season of anything, when the first season does as well as the first season of High School Musical did. There was so much excitement and so much support within the cast and crew that once we’re in Utah, once we’re filming, and once we’re actually getting the job done, there’s not much room to think about, “What is the world going to think about this?” We just know how much we love it, and that’s what matters. It’s such an incredible thing, just being able to really focus on the work that we’re doing and the fun that we’re having. At the end of the day, I hope people love it. I had so much fun doing it and that’s all that really, really matters to me. I want to be constantly loving what I’m doing, no matter what.

What do you feel you learned from doing the first season of the show that you’ve carried over to Season 2, or that’s made Season 2 a little bit easier?

WYLIE: With Season 1, I was on the moon. I was just going so crazy, whether it was on set or off set. I was just so excited. Something that Season 1 taught me is to keep balanced, no matter what, and not overexert yourself. Even if you are super excited about the new environment, that you’re a part of, you have to pace yourself, otherwise you’re going to crash and burn. I remember that I’d get home from set and I would just be so tired because not only am I working these long, 10-plus hour days, but I’m also just so emotionally excited about everything that’s going on. So, you have to pace yourself and keep balance in your mind and body, in order to sustain a long work period of time. That was something that I carried over from Season 1, going into Season 2. I was like, “Okay, you said to pace yourself. I know you’re excited about this, but pace yourself.”

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Image via Disney+

You guys were all thrown into this show together, and you’ve gotten to know each other as you’ve figured out your character dynamics and what those relationships are. What has working with this cast been like? How different did it feel to go into Season 2, knowing a lot more about each other and about your characters?

WYLIE: Working with this cast is a dream come true. I remember the first time I was with everybody. We were doing a table read and I just knew that we were making something special. I knew every single person around that big conference table was going to become a lifelong friend, and they really have. They’ve become more than that. They’ve become my family, already at this point. We’ve all been through so much together. Going into Season 2, already knowing everybody brings so much comfort because you’re not having to go into this environment where you might feel worried about who’s going to like you, who’s not going to like you, and exactly what you’re getting yourself into. I knew that I was getting myself into a wonderful situation with people that I love. It was a difficult season because, due to COVID, there were many stops in production, but we all got through it together and that made our bond that much stronger.

You’ve talked about how you got to experience a homecoming through this show that you didn’t get to experience in your own life. Has being a part of something like this given you a different perspective on how different your life has been from the typical high school experience?

WYLIE: Yeah, it has. It’s interesting because I’ll say that to the cast members who have actually been to high school and be like, “Man, I want to go to high school. This makes me want to go to high school.” And they’ll look at me like, “Sofia, this version of high school isn’t exactly what high school is.” High school can be elevated in all of our minds, and movies and TV shows, but regular high school isn’t as romanticized and glorified. I always have to remind myself of that. But I still do, on occasion, think about how cool it be, if I could just go to regular high school and break out into song in the cafeteria. Why can’t that be my life? But I’m very lucky. I would much rather take playing a high school student over being an actual high school student, every single day.

What was your reaction to learning that you would be tackling Beauty and the Beast in Season 2? How familiar were you with the story and the music?

WYLIE: I had so many different theories. All of the cast and I had so many different theories on what we thought the musical for Season 2 was going to be, but I don’t think any of us were disappointed with Beauty and the Beast because it’s such a wonderful musical with beautiful songs. We all just had so much fun putting our own spins on these renditions of the songs and allowing the world to see what we thought our versions would be.

What are you most excited about when it comes to Beauty and the Beast being a part of the season?

WYLIE: I’m very excited about the performance elements of our characters putting on Beauty and the Beast. It was exciting to be able to know who our characters would be playing, and also the costumes are wonderful. Beauty and the Beast has a wonderful range of costumes. We’re all so different and unique as the different characters, which will be fun for the audience to see.

RELATED: Joshua Bassett on ‘High School Musical: The Musical: The Series’ Season 2 and Filming Those Olivia Rodrigo Phone Call Scenes

Is it more intimidating or nerve-wracking to perform songs from such an iconic musical, or is it more nerve-wracking to take on the new original songs that you get to perform in the show?

WYLIE: I think the original songs are more nerve-wracking. You don’t know if the world’s going to like it because it’s just something that’s completely new. But at the end of the day, everyone I work with on this cast is so insanely talented and anything that they put their hearts into comes out beautifully, so I think the world is going to love it. No one on the cast has any reason to ever be nervous about anything because they’re all so good at what they do.

I love the trio of you, Dara Renee and Julia Lester. What was it like to shoot the audition number that you had together, in your sequin jumpsuits?

WYLIE: We didn’t have that many rehearsals. We probably had two or three rehearsals. It’s a big dance number, so you would think we’d have a lot more, but Dara and Julia are so incredible. They’re such incredible dancers, as well as singers and actresses. It was so much fun for me, being able to be in a trio with them because I just adore them and they’re such powerhouses. And the song itself is such a wonderful song to perform because not only is it just a really complex number and it’s challenging, and every actor, dancer or singer always loves a good challenge, but it also has such a good message to it. It’s such a boss girl power anthem, which made all of us even more hyped when we were performing it. I had so much fun doing that with them because they’re amazing.

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Image via Disney+

With Season 2 of High School Musical, we are seeing things happening between Ricky and Gina. What can you say about their dynamic?

WYLIE: There’s definitely a lot of tension because there are a lot of unanswered questions within their relationship. I don’t even think them, as characters, know what they are, so there’s just a lot of confusion in that area, which is my favorite thing. I love when there’s confused tension between characters. As they go on in the season, I think a lot of those questions are answered and a lot of new questions develop, not just between their characters, but between them and other characters, which is really interesting. I’m excited for everyone to see what happens with them because I know a lot of people really enjoyed their storyline in Season 1.

Did you personally find yourself rooting for them, or do you try not to get that attached?

WYLIE: Honestly, I’m a big fan of the show, so I have my own opinions on everything. Even though I’m playing Gina, I do love me a good Rini scene. I love Rini, which is a Ricky and Nini. They’re so cute together. I love all of the couples in the show. I root for Gina in some parts, and then I don’t root for Gina. And then, I root for EJ. And then, I root for Ricky. It’s all so confusing to me, but I know, as long as I’m enjoying it and having fun with it, then the audience is too and that makes me so happy. Everyone can root for some people at some point, and then switch it around. It’s always ever-changing.

What has it been like for you to do the show during COVID? How complicated has it been to make a show like this, at this time?

WYLIE: We are all so lucky to have been able to get back to production when we did. There was a big break in production due to COVID, but we were one of the few productions who was actually able to go back and resume filming, so I feel very lucky because of that. It was so strange having to stop mid-season, and then continue filming, six or seven months later, like no time had passed when a lot of time had passed. I don’t think anyone would ever notice it because the momentum really picked right back up and the ball just rolled down. What type of metaphor am I trying to make? It just went really, really smoothly and well, after we were able to get back to production. It really was like no time had passed at all.

The School for Good and Evil sounds very cool and has an incredible cast. What was it about that project that you found most appealing?

WYLIE: Everything! I am a big sucker for fairy tale/fantasy/YA novels. I love the fantasy world within literature. And the fact that I’m able to be a part of an adaptation of such a huge fantasy book, for a book series that is so incredible, has always been my dream. I’m playing a character who is the hero and anti-hero, and a princess and a witch. It’s all of these things combined into this character, which makes it so exciting for me. And the fact that the cast is full of these wonderful A-list actors is so amazing. I’ve been learning so much. There are so many elements of this movie that have made me so interested, but at the end of the day, I just feel so blessed. Paul Feig is so incredible, so working with him has been a dream come true. I just pinch myself, every day.

What’s it like to be directed by him? How have you found the experience of working with him?

WYLIE: He is one of the nicest human beings. It’s insane to me. The other cast and I talk about how we’re all so shocked about how grounded and kind and humble and level he is. You think, “Okay, he’s this huge Hollywood director who has made these huge films, but then he’s just this kind person.” He’s not intimidating, in any sense, but he gets the job done and he’s so good at what he does. I think he’s making a wonderful movie here and I love watching him do what he does best. He’s having a fun time.

High School Musical: The Musical – The Series is available to stream at Disney+, with new episodes on Fridays.

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